CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - Next March marks 60 years since 22News went on the air. WWLP founders Bill Putnam and Kitty Broman-Putnam recently visited our studios here in Chicopee. They sat down with Barry Kriger for a wide-ranging interview concerning everything from the book they collaborated on about their experience in early television, to the emotions of seeing people they haven't seen in more than a quarter century.
"Oh, I don't mind. I've been edited before. I've been left on many a cutting room floor." WWLP founder Bill Putnam, in his late eighties and still speaking his mind, as he always did years ago when he offered his thoughts in his editorials; his "Special Reports."
"So I felt it was our duty to present things in that manner, and we did. She did the soft stuff, the nice stuff. I was the heavy. I don't mind being a heavy. I'm still a bit of a heavy," Bill said.
Kitty said she sometimes found it necessary to edit Bill:
"I'm still trying to keep him out of trouble. I never could do it,"
"How's that working for you?"
"No better than it used to. Occasionally, I'd go down and take an editorial off (the air) while he was away. The boys would come up and tell me: 'take a look at this.' 'You're not going to run that! take it off.' And he'd come back and ask 'how did it go?' (I'd say) 'It didn't run.' Ohhh. then I was in trouble. But I said 'you can argue with me, but you're not going to put that back on. But we had a good relationship, in that I'm more conservative, and he likes a fight. So we balance one another out in that respect."
Bill expressed mock indignation over the lack of developments since he left town.
"However! I noticed when I stopped doing editorials, nothing seems to have happened in this town! Mo Jones went and died! before police were able to find out who trashed his car! Nobody has found that out. It's still a mystery! yet we've been gone for 25 years, and that mystery hasn't been solved," he said.
When asked what it was like to walk through the doors of a building which is a further incarnation of what they created, Kitty said: "Well, the building is just a building. But seeing the people, i felt almost teary. All the old folks that i knew for so long, worked with for so long."
"The only person that I recognize is, today, when we tune in, hearing Al Lehmann's voice, still the voice of our station," Bill said. " Very reassuring."
Bill and Kitty have collaborated on a book: How we survived in UHF TV. A broadcasting Memoir 1953-1984.
"Well, the publisher asked me to write it," Bill said. "He'd been begging me for years. Because I write a lot of other stuff, or I have written, anyway, and he said, 'What about that?' I said I guess I can get my wife to help me with that one."
The book chronicles the challenges of trying to thrive in an environment where many of the televisions didn't receive channels higher than channel 12: something Bill Putnam made Washington, D.C. recognize and address.
"It's a historical narrative of our lives in the television business; starting with building it, and all the tribulations that we had to go through when we had competition that had an unfair advantage over us. In that television sets could receive channel 8 or channel 3, and only some could receive us. And this was a terrible handicap. And then Ron mentioned in there how we managed to get the FCC to promote an all-channel receiver," he said.
"She always said she wanted to be buried in a corner of the studio. Unfortunately, in this studio, it's hard to find the corners.'
KITTY: "Thank you for having us."
BILL: "Anyway, God love ya."
You'll find much more of our interview with Bill and Kitty Putnam online at WWLP.com after the expanded interview airs on "22News InFocus" Sunday. Kitty talks about the challenges of live television, and they both discuss their 30-plus years in the business, and what led to their decision to sell the station group in 1984.